SADC keeps focus on growth in southern Aroostook
HOULTON, Maine — For the past 21 years, Southern Aroostook Development Corporation has worked to promote economic development in southern Aroostook County.
SADC is an economic enhancement organization, founded in 1998, to develop and expand the economic base of Southern Aroostook County. Business and community leaders from throughout the area are working together to help coordinate, promote and guide new business creation.
Josh McLaughlin, outgoing president, said one of the group’s biggest accomplishments over the past four years has been the proposed processing and testing facility at Houlton’s Industrial Park to produce food for laboratory research mice.
A $6.2 million, 12,000-square-foot facility is to be constructed on five acres of land in the Houlton Industrial Park, near the town’s airport. It is expected to manufacture four million pounds of laboratory research food annually for large research laboratories in Maine and California.
That project, however, is still a long way from completion as the company is soliciting bids for engineering studies before any ground will be broken for construction.
“They will break ground at some time this year,” Josh McLaughlin said. “The expectation is a spring 2020 completion date, creating 10-12 jobs. I know people want to see these big 200 jobs created projects, but here at SADC, our motto is one job at a time.”
Those projects that create smaller job totals do have wider impacts, though, as the people in those jobs often have families.
“Things really seem to be happening in this area right now,” said Jon McLaughlin, executive director of SADC and Josh McLaughlin’s father. “I really enjoy working with our strike teams, where we work closely with individuals and help them solve issues (in their business).”
Newly-elected SADC president, Scott Dionne, updated the Houlton Town Council on a number of items during a June 24 meeting.
“SADC is a group of citizens and volunteers that really want to maintain and grow jobs in southern Aroostook,” Dionne said. “A lot of people ask me, ‘How does southern Aroostook do it?’ And I tell everyone we have an unfair advantage — we have fostered a culture of economic development over the past few generations. You take control of the responsibility for business development and growth.”
Dionne added that sense of local responsibility to pursue development does not exist in many other communities in Aroostook County, where some communities rely solely on outside agencies.
According to the group’s website, SADC’s mission is to promote economic growth throughout Southern Aroostook County, a special place in rural Maine where people can prosper in a healthy, safe environment and raise their children while instilling in them good moral character and a lifelong work ethic. SADC is a non-profit organization dedicated to:
— Preserving the merits of the region by seeking new business opportunities, preserving existing industries, and fostering job opportunities.
— Promoting entrepreneurism, eliminating hurdles to local development, and building relationships with organizations that share similar views.
— Maintaining economically progressive communities that meet the region’s needs now and in the future.
“For me, another exciting part is we have seen an influx of younger people joining our board,”’ Josh McLaughlin said.
SADC also hopes to start a mentoring program with students starting in the eighth grade in local school districts to better inform them about the job opportunities available in Aroostook County.
“We need to educate students on what opportunities are there, and the fact that employers are now willing to help pay toward a student’s education in some fields,” Josh McLaughlin said. “Our long-term goal is the retention of people in our area and putting them to work on good paying jobs with benefits.”